Magic Erase Double-Digit Deficit Again, But Lose Another Heartbreaker

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The Lead

Markelle Fultz posted 20 points, including a game-tying free throw with 14.2 seconds left, Franz Wagner scored 19 points and Bol Bol had 17 in his first game against his former team, but it wasn’t enough as Nikola Jokic sank a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left in the Orlando Magic’s 119-116 loss on Sunday night to the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena.  

Clutch Moments

Like Friday’s game in Utah, this one featured a ton of big plays and big shots. Paolo Banchero connected on a floater with 4:28 left; Franz Wagner buried a triple with 2:58 remaining; and Wendell Carter Jr. followed up a miss with a dunk with 1:08 left that put Orlando up three. 

Former Magic player Aaron Gordon had a dunk and a pair of free throws in the final minute to put Denver back in front. Fultz, after the Nuggets appeared to intentionally foul him to send him to the stripe or were unaware they were over the foul limit, sank one of his two at the line to tie it before Jokic drilled the game winner. 

Key Stats

The Magic, who trailed by as many as 15 in the first half, outplayed the Nuggets in so many key statistical categories. They took 15 more free throws than Denver, committed three fewer turnovers, and outscored them by four in the paint. The one area that went the Nuggets way, though, was 3-point shooting. Jokic’s game-winning three was their 13th made triple of the night. Orlando shot just 7-of-29 from deep.  

In the News

Jonathan Isaac played in his second game with the Lakeland Magic on Saturday night and finished with 14 points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes in a Lakeland victory over the Greensboro Swarm. Before suiting up for the Magic’s G League team this past Wednesday, the 6-foot-10, 230-pounder hadn’t played in a game in 892 days after tearing his ACL in his left knee in the Disney bubble. 

Interesting Note

A little over an hour before the Magic took on the Nuggets, Bol met with a South Sudanese refugee family. The Atem family, who moved to the United States 10 months ago and live in Denver, are huge fans of Bol, who was born in Sudan. Just watching him from afar and following his journey has inspired them. All are big basketball fans, including 17-year-old Abuk, who currently plays for her high school hoops team. Read More>>>

Injury/Inactive Report

Chuma Okeke (left knee) was out for the Magic. Isaac, R.J. Hampton, and Kevon Harris are with Lakeland. Vlatko Cancar (lower leg), Jeff Green (hand), Peyton Watson (groin), and Collin Gillespie (lower leg) were unavailable for the Nuggets. 

This Day in History

This time three years ago, the Magic were also on a West Coast trip, with their Jan. 15 stop being in Los Angeles taking on the Lakers. Markelle Fultz recorded his second triple-double of his career that night with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists and Aaron Gordon, now a member of the Nuggets, scored 21 points, as Orlando beat the Lakers in a thriller. LeBron James had 19 points and 19 rebounds for the Lakers. 

Rivals Report

The Nuggets are an extraordinarily good offensive team. But their defense is below average, which normally comes back to haunt teams in the playoffs. The only two NBA champions in the last 27 years who didn’t go into the postseason with a top 10 defense were the 2000-01 Lakers and 2017-18 Warriors – and the Warriors that year were 11th. Interestingly, though, the Lakers and Warriors were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in defense when they each won the title the prior seasons. Denver is 19th in defense this year and they were 15h last season. 

Up Next

The Magic will have a few days to refresh following their five-game trip out West before returning to action on their home court on Friday against the New Orleans Pelicans at 7 p.m. This will be the first of their two meetings this season, with the other taking place in New Orleans on Feb. 27. Despite not having Brandon Ingram for much of the season and Zion Williamson for the last couple weeks, the Pelicans are in third place in the West. They and the Boston Celtics are the only two teams who rank in the top six in both offense and defense. 

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